Supreme Court Abetting, Not Curbing, Illegal Settlements

Under the cover of the partial and temporary freeze, the outposts are putting down deeper roots.

Next week will be five years since the publication of the report on the outposts by former top prosecutor attorney Talia Sasson at the request of prime minister Ariel Sharon.

That report was released in the wake of the government's decision to adopt the road map for peace, according to which it undertook to "immediately dismantle" all the illegal outposts established after March of 2001.

The document listed 24 such outposts and noted that the vast majority of them are located, at least in part, on private Palestinian land.

The current uproar from the construction freeze in the settlements has moved whatever remaining interest there is in the outposts scandal, both in Israel and abroad, off the agenda. Has anyone heard recently about a plan to evacuate Migron? Now there is no time for nonsense. The inspectors are busy handing out freeze orders.

Under the cover of the partial and temporary freeze, the outposts are putting down deeper roots. Some of them, such as Givat Habreikha, are operating right under the Supreme Court's nose. The outposts report determined there was no decision by the government or the defense minister to establish the outpost, which is located northwest of Ramallah, east of the separation fence.

It is not contiguous to the nearest Jewish settlement, Talmon Aleph, and it is built in part on private Palestinian land. This has not impeded the Housing Ministry from allocating the outpost NIS 1,385,000.

At the time the Sasson report was published, there were 30 housing units at the site. Today, according to photographed documentation by Yesh Din Volunteers for Human Rights and Bimkom Planners for Planning Rights, there are already 72 units there, and still counting. Very much so.

In April of last year the Civil Administration published an announcement concerning the deposit of a detailed plan to change the land-use designation for Givat Habreikha in Talmon from agricultural zone to residential neighborhood of 300 housing units. The plan covers about 860 dunams of agricultural land belonging to the Palestinian village of al Jania.

Bimkom has filed an objection to the plan on its behalf and on behalf of the head of the village council and three inhabitants who own land adjacent to the area of the plan.

They say that expanding the settlement will prevent them from reaching about 1,000 dunams of olive groves they own, to which the only access is by means of Route 4556. (In recent years they have been allowed to go to the groves twice a year, for about two weeks during the olive harvest and about one week during the planting season, in coordination with the Civil Administration and with Israel Defense Forces escorts).

During the deliberations on the objection the inhabitants of the village and the Bimkom people discovered, to their surprise, that a short time earlier the planning authorities at the Civil Administration had approved a smaller plan for the area on 33 dunams included in the overall plan. The small plan includes a segment of Route 4556, as well as a plot intended for a school, bordering the road. In the absence of objectors, the school plan had been validators.

While Jordanian planning law obligates publication of building plans in two local newspapers, the information about this was published in two newspapers in Hebrew and in the Nazareth-based Arabic-language Israeli weekly Kul al Arab, which has limited distribution in the West Bank. In violation of military law, the announcement was not displayed in the home of the village head.

In mid-October of 2009, Judge Yoram Danziger of the High Court of Justice issued an interim order prohibiting any construction work in the area of the school plan, in response to a petition filed by attorney Michael Sfard on behalf of the inhabitants of al Jania. The justice also ordered the state to respond to the additional requests for a restraining order.

At the end of December Sfard, on behalf of the villagers, Bimkom and Yesh Din, filed a petition against approving the plan to build 300 units. The petition stressed that the settlements are saturated with outposts and that approving the plan would constitute legitimization for offenders.

The prosecution informed the High Court of Justice that it had no objection to the issuance of an interim order prohibiting construction in the area of the plan. Its representatives explained that in any case a general freeze applied to the area.

Here another surprise awaited the petitioners. Supreme Court Justice Neal Hendel rejected the request for an interim order and refused to issue an order prohibiting construction in the area of the plan. He contented himself with passing the case along to a bench of three justices, without setting a date for the deliberations.

This was enough for the settlers. On January 28 Bimkom people documented construction work for the building of 13 new housing units at Givat Habreikha. Haaretz obtained the photos. The petitioners therefore went back to Justice Hendel and asked him to reconsider his decision. Without asking for the state's response, Hendel rejected the request without giving any reasoning.

In the meantime work began to lay groundwork for the school, in blatant violation of Danziger's order.

Night digging

Hiding among the materials the Binyamin Council submitted to the High Court of Justice in the process of the deliberations on the petitions against the new plans for the expansion of Talmon is a remarkable document. Apparently the settlers did not notice that above the Civil Administration announcement of the granting of validity to the plan for the neighborhood published in the Talmon information bulletin, under the heading "From the Secretariat" the following lines were published: "Possible excavation work at night: Because of the diplomatic developments, we are making every effort to advance possible construction before 'the decrees come to bear.' In light of the above, we are preparing to carry out to carry out excavation work during the coming nights as well and we ask your understanding and forbearance, especially with respect to the inhabitants of Neveh Talmon (Givat Habreikha) and especially the families living adjacent to the works."

The bulletin with the apology for the works is dated November 26, 2009 - the day the freeze went into effect.